Having worked on international security projects for both the military and the Federal government for decades, James Feldkamp has developed a sharp understanding of traveling safely to foreign countries. To help American tourists who may be traveling abroad, Feldkamp provides three critical tips for steering clear of scams while overseas.
James Feldkamp has been a fundamental component of various high-level security projects during his 30 years of service split between the military and the Federal government. He’s specialized in international security and foreign policy initiatives, often curtailing attempts from foreign powers to breach cybersecurity efforts across the country.
He’s an experienced traveler, having spent the bulk of his professional career traveling to or studying foreign countries. This experience equips him to share a few insider pointers for Americans traveling abroad, such as avoiding common scams while overseas. His advice follows:
Use Only Well-Known Brands for Currency Exchange
“International travelers are drawn to signs proclaiming cheaper exchange rates like Florida vacationers are drawn to kiosks offering ‘discounted’ theme park tickets,” says James Feldkamp. “Both can seemingly save you money, but they come with a catch, and it usually means scamming unknowing visitors out of their money.”
Europe is full of places that seem like legitimate currency exchange storefronts, but the bulk is the work of crafty scam artists. Occasionally, these locations will boast an exchange rate that is lower than average, but on closer inspection only apply to vast sums of money. More common transaction totals are taxed even higher than they would normally be at an international bank. James Feldkamp recommends asking or researching exchange locations before traveling and only trusting big name brand providers when overseas.
Be Wary of Over-Enthusiastic Helpers
Traveling overseas can be scary, especially when going to countries with different languages and vastly different cultures or currency. You may oftentimes look for help from the local citizens, or they may try to help you, but James Feldkamp warns against overly-friendly locals. Many times, their help turns into an expectation to be tipped and, if not received, will cause many to turn to harassment for money. Overly-friendly people helping out needy tourists tend to either expect payment for their assistance or else are part of a pickpocketing crew and serve as a nice distraction while your belongings are stolen.
Watch for Rigged ATM Scams
Scammers stealing credit card information from ATMs or gas station pumps are as much a problem overseas as it is here in America, sometimes even more so. Scammers use devices that they attach onto ATMs that look like they belong on the machines, but capture card information during a normal transaction without the user knowing. While they might be difficult to spot (they wouldn’t be much use to scammers otherwise), you can look for signs like glue residue around the card reader before making a transaction. Additionally, it may be worth your time to fiddle with the card reader to see if any loose parts come off. However, you don’t want to handle it too roughly or else you may damage the machine.
“There are lists and lists of helpful bits of advice for those traveling abroad, and we’ve only scratched the surface with these three,” says James Feldkamp. “However, these scams are some of the most prevalent abroad and are entirely avoidable with the right knowledge.”